Your First Writing Lesson

Your first ThinkCERCA writing lesson will be crucial in building students’ readiness levels for independence with other lessons down the road. The first lesson will allow teachers to set and scaffold expectations, engage students in discussion and collaboration frequently, and introduce the format of ThinkCERCA Writing Lessons.

Below is a lesson plan for a suggested implementation of your first ThinkCERCA lesson. It can be customized to support any Writing Lesson. Please note that each teacher may integrate this differently and the template is purely for guidance.

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Understand teachers’ expectations around the Writing Lesson.

  • Navigate the six steps of the Writing Lesson and use the tools within the lesson to support their application of skills.

  • Engage in discussion with peers about the Class Discussion Question of the Writing Module.

  • Respond to an argumentative prompt, using evidence from the text in response.

Considerations for planning:

  • Consider rearranging the classroom desks or tables to encourage peer and group discussion. For classrooms with fewer devices than students, encourage students to work with a partner on Step 1 and Step 2. For the remaining steps, have students work in a rotation model while other students work on other learning activities.
  • We recommend completing the same Writing Lesson with your entire class. Once students (and teachers!) feel more comfortable with the CERCA framework and platform, we recommend starting to assign multiple writing lessons at one time. 
  • During your first (or second!) writing lesson, it’s important to walk through each step together. 

Teachers can use Preview to display each step for students to see and follow along.


Before the Lesson



Modifications and Engagement Strategies

Assign the Lesson

Assign the Writing Lesson to each student. Determine if there are any appropriate Skills and Direct Instruction lessons to also leverage.

We recommend all students work on the same level for the first Writing Lesson, allowing you to establish clear expectations for each step.

Setup the Classroom

Arrange students to facilitate group work. Post the Class Discussion question or Writing Prompt in the room for students to refer back to throughout the lesson.


Review the Writing Lesson

Read through the writing lesson. Pick out videos or other content that may activate background knowledge for students. Determine the student writing output for the first lesson: what will your expectations be?

Here is a suggested six-week plan to consider as you scaffold your writing instruction.

Introduce the CERCA Framework

Consider how you will teach the CERCA Framework. Our eLearning Videos can be helpful for introducing the different components. Define each component of the CERCA framework and hang the definitions in the room.






Facilitate CERCA Icebreakers to familiarize students with each component of the framework.


During the Lesson



Modifications and Engagement Strategies

Question Introduction

Introduce the Class Discussion Question on the Writing Module page. Point out that students will review and discuss this as a whole group after they read about the topic.

Watch Getting Students Started 

You can activate prior knowledge about the topic with a KWLQ chart and/or by including a relevant video or image about the topic.

Students Connect with the Topic

Students read the topic overview for their lesson and answer the Personal Connection question.

Preview vocabulary as a class.

Ask students to share their response with a classmate. 

Students work in small groups to complete a Frayer Model graphic organizer for one word they don’t know.

Students Read the Text 

Listen to the text as a whole-class (either listen to the audio or do a read-aloud).

Once students finish reading, encourage them to talk to peers about what they read. Use prompts such as:

  • What was something interesting that you read?

  • What was something that was confusing to you as you read?

  • What is this text mainly about?

Have students complete the comprehension check individually.

Consider providing headphones for students who may need audio support. Make sure students review vocabulary, when needed.

Consider having students review their answers with a peer before they submit, and encourage students to dig back into the text to prove their choices.

Students can complete an Error Analysis for the questions they got wrong.

Students Engage with the Text 

Model for students how to find evidence and annotate in the text. Give a clear expectation for how much highlighting they should do. 

  • For example, “two highlights and annotations per prompt.”

Evidence should be highlighted and students’ reasoning should be explained in the notes of the highlight.

Here are a few variations for this step:

  • Students partner with a peer and find evidence together.

  • Students get in groups and split the focus: half the group finds the pink highlighted topics, half the group finds the aqua highlighted topics.

  • Consider having students discuss the evidence they found, the notes they took, and any questions they may have.

Students can collaborate to find evidence using the organizers provided.

Students Summarize the Text

Watch elearning video about summarizing as a class. 

Encourage students to use the sentence frames provided to write their summary.

Try the 3-2-1 Strategy: Have students individually write down the 3 most important points from the article. Work with a partner to determine the 2 most important points. In a small group, come up with one sentence that is the most important point of the article, and write on the board (or graph paper).

Argument Builder

Model building an argument using Preview, thinking out loud about your thought process as you write. Students begin building their CERCAs individually (claim, reason, evidence, and reasoning). 

Scaffolding expectations is reasonable. The length of the writing piece can adjust as students become more familiar with the framework (e.g. if students are just learning the skill of writing a claim, have the students write a claim only). Provide clear guidelines for how much writing students need to complete (e.g. one claim, three reasons supported by evidence, etc)

Encourage a turn-and-talk during this step in which students share their claim and the evidence that support their claim.

Create your CERCA 

Students will use the work they have completed up until this point to complete a final version of their writing.

Remind students that they can pull up their work and their highlights/notes on the left side of the screen and even copy over their work from Step 5.

Direct students to the “Need Help Getting Started” tips for the final argument to provide students with suggestions and sentence stems as they work on their final piece of writing.

Students can do a peer edit of their work with a partner.


After the Lesson



Modifications and Engagement Strategies

Provide Feedback

Provide feedback on student writing.

  • For targeted feedback, provide feedback on the specific component of writing. Guidance to Score Student Writing might be helpful as you get started!

  • Assign a growth focus to guide the area of focus for student writing in the future.

The Feedback Loop strategy or having students reflect on their writing using a Student Reflection sheet can be a great way to highlight areas of improvement for next time.

Plan Your Next Writing Lesson

Consider assigning a Direct Instruction or Skills Lesson prior to beginning your next Writing Lesson. These lesson types are meant to complement writing lessons. They can be assigned to individual students for completion or viewed as a whole class. 
Depending on student understanding of the CERCA framework and the components of the Writing Lesson, consider scaffolding in the various components of the Writing Lesson.


Download a copy of this lesson plan here and customize it to make it your own.